Match Preview: QLD Country Heelers v NSW Country Cockatoos
By Matt Findlay
Queensland Country and NSW Country’s preparation for Saturday’s Battle of the Border Cup clash couldn’t be more different and because of that the Heelers head in with plenty of momentum while the Cockatoos, well, they’re expecting somewhat of an ambush at Goondiwindi.
The Heelers are fresh from an undefeated, two-game tour of New Zealand and hit the training paddock almost immediately after landing back in Australia on Friday, on the flip side the Cockatoos will have just two training sessions and one game, which they won, under their belts leading in.
One of those sessions will be on Friday night too, after the entire side’s made the long trek north.
“It’ll be a tough slog, but that’s what country rugby is about,” NSW Country coach Mat Thomas said.
“Queensland Country has travelled a bit leading in too, so we’ll just have to overcome it. They’re coming off the tour though so no doubt they’ll be a bit more polished than us, and pretty confident too I’d say.”
Queensland Country skipper Sam Hogarth confirmed exactly that, that his side is brimming with confidence after downing Ellesmere (29-10) and North Canterbury (42-17) in Aotearoa.
“We will head in confident, definitely. The tour was good, the boys came together really well, we played some pretty good rugby and got a couple of good wins,” Hogarth, who’ll line up on the side of the Heelers’ scrum, said.
“Any team playing at this level will be strong though, so I’m sure they’ll be tough. We don’t know much about them really, we know they had a win (earlier this month) but individually we don’t know their players so we’ll focus on ourselves, our game.
“That’s mainly defence, for us. Defensively we were really good in New Zealand so a big thing will be making sure we’re good there again, we can attack from that.”
The Cockatoos’ win, a 34-24 victory, came over the ACT Brumbies’ Provincial outfit and while Thomas said the result was pleasing, he conceded his side has plenty to improve on if it’s to be a chance against the powerful Heelers.
“We let that game slip a bit towards the end, we probably didn’t score as many as we should’ve and they probably scored too many,” he explained.
“We defended for a lot of the game against ACT, which was our fault through errors and penalties, and we had three yellow cards as well.
“Two of those guys, Tom Green and Charlie French, were off the same time, and we just can’t afford to do that against the Heelers, they’re a quality side and they’re very experienced, they’ll run riot if we do.
“They’re stacked, from what I know they’ve got a very good side and I think they’ll be desperate to win and retain the trophy.”
The Heelers hold the Battle for the Border Cup after a thrilling 18-16 victory at Newcastle last year, which came thanks to a last-gasp try.
Queensland Country is actually gunning for a three-peat, after winning a similarly thrilling clash the year before.
The Heelers prevailed 29-27 at Toowoomba in 2016, again thanks to a try in the final minutes.
Both Queensland Country and NSW Country’s colts will face-off at Goondiwindi too, the former comes in after a 73-0 demolition of the University of Queensland while the Cockatoos boys lost three straight games at the NSW Gen Blue trials earlier this month.
The colts clash kicks off at 2pm, before the main game at 3.30pm.